Researchers have recently discovered that Napoleon Bonaparte’s Y-DNA belongs to haplogroup E1b1b1c1* (M34+).
Dominique Vivant Denon was the director-general of French museums under Napoleon. Denon made a reliquary (a container for relics) that included the beard of Henry IV, a tooth from Voltair, and a lock of Bonaparte’s hair. [1. B. Foulon, ed., Dominique-Vivant Denon: L’oeil de Napoléon, exh. cat., Paris: Musée du Louvre (Paris, 2000), 480.] The “Vivant-Denon reliquary” is currently deposited in the Bertrand Museum of Châteauroux, and contains in the “right lateral compartment” a lock of Napoleon’s hair (two of which were used for mtDNA analysis. [2. Lucotte, et al. (2011) Haplogroup of the Y Chromosome of Napoleon the First. J. Mol. Biol. Research, 1:12-19.] Also in the reliquary is three beard hairs belonging to Napoleon.
Interestingly, when the beard hairs were examined using scanning electron microscopy, it was discovered that they were covered by remnants of shaving soap and some microscopic iron debris from the razor used to cut the beard.
DNA was extracted from the base of two of the three hairs, and was then analyzed. First, the DNA underwent an amologenin test to confirm that it was Y-DNA. Next, the DNA was tested for the DYS19, XCAIIa, and YCAIIb Y-STRs, and for ten Y-SNPs in the following order: M125, M174, M35, M33, M123, M81 and M78, followed by M34, M84 and M290.
The testing showed the following Y-STR results: DYS19 = 13, XCAIIa = 19, and YCAIIb = 22 (which show a probability in Whit Athey’s predictor program of 76.5% E1b1b). [3. Athey, W. (2006). Haplogroup prediction from Y-STR values using a Bayesian allele frequency approach. J. Genet. Geneal. 2:34-39.] Further, the Y-SNP results suggested the haplogroup E1b1b1c1*.
Great-Great-Great Uncle Napoleon
The results were further compared to the Y-DNA profile of Prince Charles Napoleon Bonaparte, born in 1950, who is the 4th generation descendant of Napoleon’s younger brother Jérôme Bonaparte (1784-1860) (a family tree can be found in the article). Not surprisingly, Charles’s DNA matched that of the DNA extracted from the beard, suggesting both that the beard hairs did belong to Napoleon and that the scientist’s results are likely accurate.
For more information:
- Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog: “Napoleon Bonaparte belonged to haplogroup E1b1b1c1* (E-M34*)” (includes a link to a previous article about Bonaparte’s mtDNA in haplogroup H)